Mental Meltdown: Trump Win Caused Massive Surge in Crisis Hotline Calls

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By Katie Burke | 10:44 am, November 14, 2016

It’s not uncommon for election cycles to cause anxiety, but mental health professionals say this year demand for their services has been particularly high, and may rise even further in the wake of Donald Trump’s win of the presidential race.

As the results came in on Tuesday night, many crisis hotlines experienced an increase in calls, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Trevor Project’s suicide hotline for gay youth. Trevor Project executive director Steve Mendelsohn said callers were concerned about their rights under a President Trump. During the campaign, he suggested he would overturn marriage equalityand his vice president, Mike Pence, has been called “one of the most anti-gay governors in the nation.” The Trans Lifeline, a crisis hotline for transgender people, received a record amount of calls on Tuesday and early Wednesday and is calling for more resources to keep up with the overwhelming demand.

This is not the first time an uptick in calls to crisis hotlines has been attributed to Trump — anti-sexual assault organization RAINN saw a 33% increase in calls to its sexual assault crisis hotline after a tape of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women surfaced in early October. The contentious election cycle of 2016 has taken a toll on the mental health of many voters in general, with 52% of adults saying the election was a “significant source of stress,” according to the American Psychological Association. Another survey found 93% of voters thought the election was worse than ever, with 43% of voters reporting emotional stress due to Trump’s campaign and 28% due to Clinton’s campaign.

Maria A. Oquendo, president of the American Psychiatric Association, said the organization has also noticed a surge in demand, stretching thin the country’s already-strained mental health resources.

“There have been a number of groups targeted in the campaign,” she said. “For those groups it’s very frightening to know they are being targeted not just verbally but in other ways — they are fearing for their livelihood and safety.”

Zoe, an administrative assistant based in New York, said her posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms from childhood abuse resurfaced for the first time in over five years, she believes in part due to the sexual assault allegations against Trump. She is considering seeking therapy for the first time ever due to the election.

“The fact that people know what has happened and still voted for him really triggers my own trauma,” she said. “It’s terrifying because it invalidates all of the abuse I went through to see how this is such a non-issue for people.”

Colleges across the country offered student “cry-ins,” counseling sessions and even canceled classes to help them deal with a feeling of shock the morning after Donald Trump’s presidential victory.

Nicole Sievers, a small business owner who lives in Rahway, N.J., said she is seeking a therapist to cope with what she says was an emotionally traumatic election. She worked on a texting campaign for Hillary Clinton and said the verbal abuse she received from Trump supporters has surfaced mental health struggles she had not dealt with before.

“This election has brought me so much anxiety — anxiety I truthfully didn’t even know I had,” she said. “I decided I need to talk to a neutral party to help me move past this and forgive some of the men in my family who I just can’t understand right now.”

She said she plans to seek help sooner rather than later as she is unsure if she will be able to access these services in the future. Trump has vowed to overturn the Affordable Care Act, which requires insurers to cover mental health services.

Others who are seeking these services should start by talking to their primary care doctor, according to Oquendo. She also suggested speaking with pastors, priests and rabbis for faith-based support, particularly in rural areas with few mental health resources. Of course, the many Trump supporters who voted for the candidate because they felt disenfranchised are likely to feel better after his win. Oquendo added that it is possible people of all political leanings who have been struggling with election-related stress will feel a sense of relief soon.

“As with the markets, it often gets destabilized on rumors and stabilized after there is an actual fact,” she said. “To echo what many leaders have said, I think we need to wait. It’s important to give time to our president-elect to make his mark and show what he can do to unify the country and help people feel safer.”

This article was originally published on Marketwatch.

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